As someone who enjoys electronic music, I have been disappointed in the lack of noteworthy released there have been this year. Maybe it is because I was spoiled last year with albums by Jamie xx, Disclosure, and Zedd but I have been eagerly awaiting another album to come along to hit me in the same way.
Then Flume came and released his sophomore album Skin which is one of the most enjoyable records I have listened to this summer. Flume is taking his unique, occasionally disorienting, production and applying it to genres that are more accessible genres like indie pop and hip hop. The large list of collaborators vary from newcomers such as AlunaGeorge and Vince Staples to Raekwon and Beck. This adds to the colorful and diverse nature of this record.
If we are going to break this up by genre, I would say the splashes of hip hop on here were some of my favorite moments. “Smoke & Retribution” with Vince Staples feature some great verses and show that Staples is one of the best upcoming rappers. The production only boosts his performance, rather than covering it up. On “You Know,” Allan Kingdom and Raekwon work together to create the darkest and most cinematic track on here. We are given a story of murder and retribution and it honestly makes you forget you are listening to an electronic album. Vic Mensa’s track is definitely fun but not nearly as substantive as other tracks on this record. Mensa’s verse are mostly solid, and the buildup is great, but overall I am not totally impressed.
The pop and indie pop influenced songs are also excellent on here. I think Kai’s song “Never Be Like You” is a solid radio-friendly track, and has some very emotive vocals. Flume’s production here is subtle but works well at not overpowering Kai at any point, something electronic artists will occasionally do. Tove Lo delivers exactly what Tove Lo usually delivers on “Say It”, a sex fueled song full of biting and bed breaking. While this could be seen as trashy, Tove Lo’s performance is strong as always and the song benefits greatly because of this.
Towards the end of the record there are a trilogy of songs that all feature some great female vocalists that are soft but memorable. “Take a Chance” with Little Dragon is the kind of self-empowerment song that many mainstream artists have been failing to make work *cough* Meghan Trainor *cough* and while she is quiet, Flume is able to make the production match so the two can work together. AlunaGeorge does great on “Innocence,” showing that she is an artist who works really well with strong production. “Like Water” is the weakest of this trilogy with MNDR’s vocals being a little too manipulated at times, but the bridge works towards a nice climax which escalates this simple song to something very strong.
The closing track “Tiny Cities” with Beck was one I was anticipating greatly. Beck is one of my favorite artists of all time so almost anything he does will appeal to me in some way. That being said, I was a little let down by this, thinking Beck’s vocals were manipulated to the point of unrecognition and when he is recognizable he is still flat and making little effort to exert real emotion. This is not the worst track on here, that would probably go to “Numb & Getting Colder” for being too long and featuring some grating vocals from Kučka, it is still not nearly as great as it could have been.
While I wish they were more plentiful, the tracks where Flume is able to showcase his producing skills are excellent as well. “Wall Fuck” is one of this album’s best cuts and features some very interesting sounds that feel kind of menacing but then being evened out by lighter vocal snippets. “3” utilized some muffled vocals and chimes in its intro to build to a really fun beat that builds over the reoccurring sounds well. “When Everything Was New” sounds more like an interlude than a song, not really building up to much, and “Free” feels a little unnecessary but besides these two moments, the rest of the production shines.
While not hitting the same highs as Jamie xx’s In Colour or Daft Punk’s Random Access Memories, which are my favorite electronic albums of the last couple years, Flume has created something ahead of popular producers like Disclosure and Zedd and far ahead of someone like Calvin Harris. He is proving to be one of the best young producers out now and is just one hit single away from breaking out. This is such an enjoyable record and I am sure many fans of electronic music will get something out of this. Even with its flaws, this will get plenty of plays from me this summer and I am excited to see what highs Flume will be able to hit.
Best Tracks: Never Be Like You, Say It, Wall Fuck, Smoke & Retribution, 3, You Know, Take a Chance, Innocence
Worst Track: Numb & Getting Closer